WATERLOO — The city is sticking with asphalt for its street reconstruction program this year despite a push from some to spend more on concrete.
Waterloo City Council members narrowly voted 4-3 Monday to approve a $7.17 million contract with Aspro Inc. of Waterloo to reconstruct multiple streets across the city this year.
Council members Steve Schmitt, Sharon Juon, Pat Morrissey and Jerome Amos Jr. supported the contract, which is funded with local option sales tax, sewer and water fees.
Council members Bruce Jacobs, Chris Shimp and Margaret Klein voted against the measure after proposing the city instead accept a $7.64 million bid from Croell Inc. of New Hampton to rebuild the same streets with concrete.
The decision followed a pointed hour-long debate touching on the perceived quality of one surface over the other but also touching on local business preference, cost and city bidding policies.
Jacobs said he researched the measure, talking to contractors and others, before concluding concrete would last 50 percent longer than asphalt. He also noted major roadways like the current U.S. Highway 63 and University Avenue projects were using concrete.
“We want the best bang for the buck for us all,” Jacobs said. “For such a small amount more, I think we would have a longer-lasting project and a more quality product for our taxpayers.”
Aspro President Milt Dakovich took exception to Jacobs’ conclusion.
“It is a structurally equal alternate; there isn’t any question about it,” Dakovich said. “(The city) has been letting that alternate for 34 years, and they’ve been monitoring the successful results of that construction.
“We’re a local contractor with local employees,” he added. “We’ve got local subcontractors with local employees.”
City Engineer Eric Thorson said the city’s design specifications are written to accommodate both concrete and asphalt.
“They both are lasting relatively the same amount of time,” Thorson said. “We’ve got proof right out on our own streets. We’ve got 20- and 25-year concrete and asphalt. They’re both performing very well.”
Morrissey said he wouldn’t reject Aspro after the company followed bidding rules. He openly questioned whether the city would be in legal trouble if it failed to take the low bid.
“We don’t need to get in some kind of situation where we’re going to be sued,” Morrissey said.
Juon also questioned why the city would spend $470,000 more on a contract after cutting positions in next year’s budget.
“During budget times, half a million dollars was a lot of money,” she said. “Now it’s not, and I don’t understand the difference.”
Jacobs eventually pulled his motion for the concrete streets after staff said Croell failed to comply with bidding policies when it did not include information about the use of minority- and woman-owned business enterprises as subcontractors.
Aspro is subbing out 5.5 percent of the work to MBEs and 12.4 percent to WBEs.
Klein and Jacobs then proposed rejecting both bids and seeking new bids. That motion failed to garner any more support, falling on a 5-2 vote.
Council members on both sides of the vote have requested a work session in the future to discuss the use of asphalt versus concrete for road projects.
Jacobs said he felt discussions about the city’s bidding process apparently should not be in public.
“Any further discussion on this will have to be done off line because I don’t feel this circle is productive for the citizens of the city,” Jacobs said. “So we’re going to have to talk about this off line.”